Weekly Winner: Pretty Easy Peasy

Ravioli Alfredo with PeasThis week’s entry is so easy, it barely qualifies as cooking.  Besides being so dang easy… it is also a very pretty dish.  Sometimes it is the simplest, easiest things that actually taste the best.  Case in point, this week’s Weekly Winner.  It is Ravioli Alfredo with Peas and it comes from Food Network Magazine.

The most important thing I can say about this recipe is make sure you find fresh mushroom ravioli.  I found some at the Green City Market, my local farmer’s market and it was remarkable.  With such few ingredients, it is vital that each is really good quality.

It may seem like cheating, but it is wonderfully delicious cheating.  Make this and enjoy all the extra time you’ll have!

Ravioli Alfredo with Peas

Serves 4 (or just me and my husband!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 9-oz packages of mushroom ravioli
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Procedure:

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the ravioli and cook as the label directs.  Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the ravioli.

Combine the butter, cream and peas in a large skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook 1 minute.  Add the ravioli, cheese, nutmeg and a splash of the reserved cooking water to the skillet and toss.  Add more cooking water to think the sauce, if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Divide among bowls and top with the parsley.

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Weekly Winner: A Kindler, Gentler Pesto

As I have mentioned before, it’s not that I actively dislike traditional pesto, it’s just that it tends to over power anything it comes in contact with.  While I love basil, garlic, pine nuts, etc… the combination of such in a traditional pesto is just, well, too much sometimes.  And while I dearly love the Arugula Pesto I posted almost a year ago https://donnasquickqi.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/weekly-winner-pesto-perfected/, it was time for a change.

Sicilian PestoEnter Sicilian Pesto.  If it is possible for a pesto to be refreshing, this one is.  I think it is the mint.  The small amount of tomatoes also gives it a nice body without relying heavily on olive oil.  Just all around a great pesto.  I think my husband’s comment said it all “This is way better than it should be”.  Apparently I had higher hopes that he did, but at least it turned out as a unanimous Weekly Winner.

I have no idea where this recipe came from.

Sicilian Pesto

Makes 3 cups

  • 4-5 yellow or red globe or Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • 3 Tbsp shredded pecorino
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse tomatoes, mint, almonds, pecorino, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper flakes in a food processor until smooth; season with salt and pepper.  Toss with pasta of your choice.

Weekly Winner: The Conundrum Casserole

This dish totally befuddles me.  The definition of a conundrum is “anything that puzzles” and this does just that.  It puzzles me.  It’s called simply, Chicken & Rice Casserole.  First of all, I find chicken and rice dishes to generally be comfortingly bland…mild….soothing.  As a matter of fact, when we got our first cat many years ago and took him to the vet right after adopting him, he suffered from what the vet called “shelter stomach” or what we refer to as an upset tummy.  He prescribed that I feed him white rice mixed with chicken baby food for a few days.  He loved it and it seemed to do the trick.  That’s the thing with chicken and rice…. it’s something you crave when you don’t want anything too flavorful.  But I digress… back to the conundrum casserole.

Chicken rice casseroleI really shouldn’t like this dish as much as I do.  First of all, I am basically not a fan of wild rice.  Given the choice between various rices, my order of preference is always: white, brown, and then wild… if nothing else is available.  Then there is the almonds.  I don’t like almonds.  But they totally work in this recipe.  It just wouldn’t be the same without them.

There is just something so incredibly hearty, rich, smoky (thanks to my beloved bacon) and elegant about this dish, that it floors me every time.  I never think of a casserole as a dish I would serve to company, but I would serve this without hesitation.  I just can’t quite figure out what makes it so dang good.  It is a puzzle … which indeed makes it a conundrum.  A very tasty conundrum at that.  I believe the recipe came from Cuisine at Home magazine, but I’m not entirely sure about that either.  See?  Everything about this dish confuses me!

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Serves 8

Ingredients:

4 strips of bacon, diced

¾ cup diced carrot

8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced

½ cup diced celery

1 cup sliced leeks

1 T minced garlic

4 cups cooked brown and wild rice blend (about 2 cups dry)

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 cups sour cream

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 T chopped fresh thyme

2 T fresh lemon juice

8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick spray.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate; drain and discard all but 3 Tbsps drippings from skillet.

Add carrot to drippings and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add mushrooms and celery to skillet, cook until mushrooms soften, then add leeks and garlic.  Cook vegetable mixture until tender, about 4 minutes, season with salt and pepper.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Stir rice, chicken, bacon, sour cream, almonds, parsley, thyme, and lemon juice into vegetable mixture.  Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.

Combine Jack and Parmesan cheeses; sprinkle over top of rice mixture.  Bake casserole until cheese begins to brown, 25-30 minutes.

 

 

Weekly Winner – Tardy, but Terrific!

IMG_0560My apologies.  I have not been keeping up with this.  Life has gotten a bit hectic with travel and work and ….well, life.  Much to my dismay, I just haven’t had the time to kick back and relax in the kitchen.  That is until the end of last week.  Finally, the time came to try out this new mac-n-cheese recipe.

Truth be told, I probably have close to 10 mac-n-cheese recipes.  Every time I see another one I have duelling thoughts in my head.  1)  Do I really need another mac-n-cheese recipe? and 2) Who doesn’t need another mac-n-cheese recipe??  Luckily the second thought was victorious and I ripped out the recipe without hesitation.  It is luscious.  The thing I really like about this dish is the bitterness the Guinness imparts.  It was indeed the perfect comfort food to close out a very tiring, chaotic week.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and I admit I “un-lightened” it a bit.  I personally don’t believe in low-fat cheese, nor do I particularly care for turkey sausage.  Therefore I used the real things and the changes are indicated in my version of the recipe below.

Stout Mac-and-Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients:

7 ounces uncooked rotini pasta

2 teaspoons canola oil

4 ounces hot Italian sausage

3/4 cup diced onion

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup Guinness Stout beer

1/3 cup whole milk

2.5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 ounces processed cheese, shredded (who are they kidding – they mean Velveeta)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.

While pasta cooks, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat.

Remove casing from sausage. Add sausage and onion to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring to crumble sausage.

Add flour, pepper, and salt; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Stir in beer; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Add milk and cheeses, stirring until smooth. Stir in pasta. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.